Strickland moves ahead with Memphis 3.0 as council vote is awaited

By Updated: May 14, 2019 2:41 PM CT | Published: May 14, 2019 11:26 AM CT

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland signed an executive order Tuesday in South Memphis that will put into effect the Memphis 3.0 land use and development guidelines across most but not all of city government.

The exception is the land use process controlled by the Memphis City Council. The council has delayed a vote on the first of three readings of the Memphis 3.0 ordinance three times since March and is now scheduled to take a first reading vote next week.

<strong>Jim Strickland&nbsp;</strong>

Jim Strickland 

“The order caps off our administrative review because we play a part in implementing this plan,” Strickland said, when asked why he didn’t wait for council approval.

The mayor's action means city planners will now formally use the plan as one of several ways they evaluate proposals they get from private developers for all types of projects. The review is part of the administrative process before the developments go to the Land Use Control Board and the council for approval.

The order also allows the city to move ahead with plans for public infrastructure incentives funded in Strickland's pending budget proposal. The incentives are designed to act as a catalyst for developers to look at areas of the city they might not ordinarily look at and adhere to the Memphis 3.0 plan in the process.

“This cements that Memphis 3.0 will be used by every agency, every division of government,” Strickland said. “We don’t control land use. That is the city council’s purview. So, we still want them to adopt it.”

Strickland's action drew criticism from mayoral candidate Tami Sawyer. In a social media post, Sawyer accused Strickland of trying to "circumvent democracy. ... instead of figuring out how to work with the communities who feel excluded."

"This is not leadership that puts people first," she added. "This is not the move of an administration that values equity and voice."

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A post on the council's Facebook page Tuesday afternoon said the body will continue to discuss and debate the merits of Memphis 3.0.

"To the extent any administrative decisions made to implement Memphis 3.0 policies involve land use changes, such changes will still require council approval pending final action on the Memphis 3.0 plan by the council," the statement reads. "Final decisions on land use matters have been, and will still be, the sole authority of the Memphis City Council."

Council members delayed the vote the first time after council member Berlin Boyd called for the delay to hear from activist Carnita Atwater and others in the Firestone area of North Memphis who want to see her plan made a part of the larger set of guidelines.

Atwater has also questioned the motives of the plan and whether it will lead to gentrification.

Atwater was among a group of eight sign-carrying protesters outside the office of The Works Inc., the South Memphis community development corporation that is among a group of CDCs favoring Memphis 3.0.

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Atwater claims the plan leaves out the Firestone area of North Memphis and specifically a plan she has for the use of the site of the old Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. plant as well as the surrounding area. She has also filed a lawsuit against the city seeking to stop council votes on Memphis 3.0.

The council delayed its vote on first reading last week to give its attorney and the city’s attorney a chance to review the lawsuit.

“I understand the experiences of many people who are opposed to the adoption of the plan,” said Roshun Austin, executive director of The Works and a board member of Memphis Fourth Estate Inc., the nonprofit that owns The Daily Memphian.

“There is truth that there is some policy and local policy that has devastated the African-American community,” she said. “There are also terroristic acts that have encroached and imposed upon people, that has taken their land from them. This is not that.”

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Strickland denied trying to put any pressure on the council, but he said again that he wishes the council would vote soon. He also noted that the city’s last comprehensive long-range plan was nearly 40 years ago.

“It’s way past due,” he said. “Memphis 3.0 will provide a much-needed road map for our growth. As we have seen for far too long, growth without a plan creates urban sprawl, a lack of cohesive land use and puts tremendous strain on our limited infrastructure.”

As he signed the order, a group of 30 stood behind him and applauded, including leaders of numerous community development corporations and planning and development officials.

The executive order is a rarely used action at City Hall in matters that also require some measure of council approval. Various mayors, including Strickland, have at times taken items to the council for approval that didn’t require council OK in order to build consensus between the two branches – executive and legislative.

Council members are already seeing how some of the developments they approve in terms of land use mesh with Memphis 3.0 in the staff reports from the Memphis-Shelby County Division of Planning and Development.

The Memphis 3.0 recommendations have been showing up on staff reports now for several weeks and no one on the council has voiced objections.

“Even some council members, without having it on the paper, have asked, ‘What would Memphis 3.0 say about this case?’” said John Zeanah, director of the joint city-county agency. “It’s a good illustration too of why the council would adopt the plan so that their land use decisions are consistent with the plan. The plan goes from being a document on the shelf related to land use to truly a guide for how we are developing over the next 20 years.”


Jim Strickland Memphis City Council Memphis 3.0 Roshun Austin Carnita Atwater
Bill Dries

Bill Dries

Bill Dries covers city government and politics. He is a native Memphian and has been a reporter for more than 40 years.

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